Extravagant Generosity and Vital Congregations

 As I move through the accumulated paperwork of my office, many different items caught my attention.  Two offer witness to living out of our missional purpose of “making disciples for the transformation of the world.” Rev. Dawne Phillips shared that in a recent preaching at FUMC Weatherford that she was presented with a check for the Conference in the amount of $17,071 to be contributed to Imagine No Malaria.  The contribution is the first gift from a $440,000 capital campaign for a new bus, audio-visual equipment, long-range planning with an architect, debt reduction and a 10% pledge to Imagine No Malaria.  Their plan is to make periodic payments to the Conference as funds are received.  The faithfulness and fruitfulness of the good folks at First UMC, Weatherford is a prime example of extravagant generosity. Another (of many) example of faithfulness and fruitfulness is the growing participation by the churches of the Central Texas Conference in the greater Vital Congregations emphasis of the larger United Methodist Church. Gary Lindley and Jeff Jones offer the following bullet points:
  •  Thus far 128 churches are participating. Some of these include: White’s Chapel, Keller, Killeen First, Oglesby, Ranger and Cranfills Gap.
  • Criteria for determining whether or not a church is vital are: For each church, we average the metrics from each category (Worship Attendance, Professions of Faith, Number in Small Groups, People in Mission, Dollars to Mission). Churches receive a score from 1 to 3 in each category based on their ranking with other churches. Churches in the bottom 25% of each category receive a 1; those in middle 25-75% receive a 2; and those in the top 25% receive a 3. Those scores are then added together. Churches with a score of 10 or more and with no score of 1 in any single category are considered “Highly Vital.”
  • Data will be reviewed by the Center for Evangelism and Church Growth to determine churches that are considered vital.
  • Numbers represent the narratives – numbers communicate what is happening in our churches, they capture quantitative and qualitative growth.  We need both the numbers and the personal stories.
As I have written before, with the numbers (or metrics) we add the crucial narrative!  (See my blog of March 19, 2012 entitled The Importance of Narrative and my comments on the same subject in my recent Episcopal Address.)  When the Cabinet looks at appointments and assesses faithfulness and fruitfulness, we will examine together both the metrics of vital congregations and the narratives that accompany those metrics.  May the stories of God’s unfolding grace in Christ through the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit abound!